Healthy eating is an integral part of caring for yourself throughout the menopause journey. And the same nutritional strategies that support your body through menopause, also support a healthier heart. The key to eating for your health is to build your meals by balancing nutrients to feel full and satisfied, support blood sugar, as well as lower inflammation and cholesterol.
When you are stretched for time, convenience can interfere with your best intentions for eating well. But a healthy meal doesn’t have to be complicated. A few key components can help you build a nutritious, balanced lunch that will keep you well-fueled. Gennev Health Coach and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Jessica Gingrich, shared with us the four steps to building a heart healthy salad plate.
- Start with a base of veggies. Lettuce or greens not your thing? That doesn’t matter. Just fill your bowl with the non-starchy veggies you do love – think anything other than potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas and winter squash. Aim for about 1-2 cups. Veggies provide your body with fiber that helps traps and remove cholesterol and antioxidants that reduce inflammation in your blood vessels.
- Next, add on a lean protein. Protein is key for women in peri and post menopause because it is needed to maintain and build muscles, especially if you are strength training. Protein helps keep us full and satisfied, reducing the need to snack more between meals. Include about 3-4 oz of lean animal protein like fish, chicken, or turkey or ½ cup of plant-based protein like beans, lentils, or tofu/tempeh/edamame.
- Keep building with fiber-rich carbohydrates. By adding a carbohydrates source to your salad, you increase the fiber and ensure you won’t be searching out refined carbs later in the day to satisfy a carb craving. Toss on approximately ½ cup of whole grains like quinoa, brown or wild rice, or farro or starchy veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas or winter squash.
- Top off your salad with healthy fat. That includes mono- and polyunsaturated fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, olives, or cold-water fish like salmon or tuna.
If you hit these four components, you will achieve a satisfying, delicious way to enjoy your lunch break.
Need some inspiration? Gennev’s Health Coach team shared their personal take on three heart-healthy, menopause-supportive salad plates.
The Winter Happiness Salad (appropriately named) is a favorite go-to of mine to prepare a quick and easy lunch for the whole week. Unlike some green salads, this one will not get soggy. It is loaded with monounsaturated fat and fiber to support heart health and satiety too. Not only is it a great lunch option but a wonderful potluck dish or dinner side as well.
- The base of this salad is started with massaged kale (1 bunch). If you haven’t tried massaging your kale yet, I highly recommend it. Kale is a hearty green and this softens the texture while still leaving some bite and the olive oil adds flavor. Parsley (1 bunch) and scallions (about ¼ cup) add variants of green and fresh flavors.
- The chopped apples and raisins or currants (1/3 cup) provide fiber-rich carbohydrates that add a sweet essence to this salad.
- As with many vegetarian meals, the carbohydrate and protein portions of the salad overlap. Here quinoa (3 cups) and chickpeas (15-oz can) make this salad feel heartier and give it more texture. I like to also add toasted almonds for crunch, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and a touch of protein and fiber (1/3 cup).
- Dress with Apple Cider Vinaigrette that includes the heart healthy benefit of olive oil and miso to support gut health.
If you are tight on time, you can skip the steps to toast and grind fennel and coriander seed. The salad is still packed with flavor without these additions.
My go-to salad is a simple grain bowl, inspired by a local Seattle favorite from Evergreens Salad: the Super Bowl. This salad provides a great mix of nutritious carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you full and satisfied, and support your energy levels throughout the day.
- I build my base with about 1-1 ½ c. kale – I love the crunch and dense nutrient value
- Add ½ cup cherry tomatoes for a pop of color and acidity.
- Top with ½ cup of quinoa - I batch cook this on the weekends to have available all week. Quinoa is a powerhouse with fiber and protein.
- Add 3 oz of turkey or chicken – usually from leftovers from a meal over the weekends – or chickpeas for a plant-based alternative.
- Top with 1 to 2 tbsp. of feta cheese for flavor and a bit of extra protein.
- Drizzle with about 2 tbsp. of a simple homemade red wine vinaigrette – this adds moisture, flavor and healthy fat. Any olive-oil or avocado-based store-bought dressing work well too.
My go-to lunch salad is one of my favorites to duplicate for dinner on those late nights when I am not up for intensive cooking.
- My base starts with about 1 cup packed arugula for a spicy start. Spinach or shredded and massaged kale would also work well.
- Add about 1 /2 c. (combined) of shredded carrots and pickled beets for added color and flavor.
- I toss in up to 1 cup crispy, roasted chickpeas – these supply a combination of both protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates. My spice combination is usually salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and sometimes curry powder. Check out this quick and easy Roasted Chickpea recipe.
- For a protein booster, you can opt for ½ cup of roasted chickpeas plus a sliced hardboiled egg and/or a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese.
- Top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (1-2 tbsp combined) and some avocado slices (1/4 avocado).
Need solutions or support to optimize your health as well as manage menopause symptoms? Schedule a visit with a menopause specialist. They can help you understand your symptoms and create a personalist treatment plan so you can thrive in midlife and beyond.